Sunday, 16 March 2014

Crime and punishment

Memory is often strange and unreliable, especially after the passage of many years. And the things that trigger memory can be strange. Someone put on Facebook some very old and sexist advertisements, in a number of which women were spanked by their husbands for some or other failure in their performance of their domestic duties. While my usual feminist rage rose, frothed, seethed and boiled, I remembered the last time I was subjected to corporal punishment. These ads, and the Tasmania election, triggered my memory.

I was 21. An adult, eligible to vote, and to get a driving licence. And I was trusted to, and required to give considerable domestic help. My elder sister had escaped some of the domestic load, as she was a nurse, and in those days, trainee nurses lived in, at the nurses' home.

I had learned to drive and had just recently passed the driving test and obtained my licence. It took some time for the licence to arrive, and in this period my parents went to Tasmania, for a legal conference of some kind. They took some of the children, leaving me to care for the others, and to keep house. Which I did.

My licence arrived, and so I used the family car. After my parents and the other children arrived home, I had casually mentioned something about having used the car. My father looked thunderous. He said I had not been permitted to use the car in his absence - although the issue had never been raised. And as a punishment for what he saw as disobedience, in his view deliberate, he gave me a belting, and naturally I was prohibited from driving the family car. My protestations of innocence of intention were to no avail. I was enraged. I did not act with bad intent, and had, after all, been acting as an adult and was, I suppose, in loco parentis, and I cannot abide injustice.

After some weeks my father made me drive with him, so he could be satisfied of my capability. He then permitted me to use the car, from time to time.

Well, of course, this all happened many many years ago, and, as they say, worse things happen at sea.  But with the memory, albeit somewhat imperfect, having been triggered, the same feelings of having been treated unjustly, and being subjected, as an adult, to corporal punishment, have surged up, and I wonder just why my father had treated me thus, with no presumption of innocence of intent or consideration of extenuating circumstances.


Elephant's Child said...

Ouch. How well I remember those feelings. I was younger (which perhaps made it more acceptable) Perhaps. I asked whether I could walk to a shop - a mile or two away and got an assent. An hour or so later my father drove up - furious. He hadn't heard or registered me asking. Me protesting that I had meant additional punishment.
It doesn't compare to your circumstances, but I still remember the injustice. Well I remember it.

Frances said...

To teach you to keep your place as an underling subordinate to men, possibly?
I well remember in H.S. some aged nun droning on retelling incidents of "wonderful parents" and the lengths they were prepared to go to "to break the child's will", the child's will evidently being the devil's creation.
Fortunately, no one ever struck me when I was a child. I think I would have felt the outrage, the sense of invasion of one's autonomy, that Miles Franklin reports feeling when her mother hit her.

Frances said...

I meant to say that his behaviour was outrageous, of course.
Sorry to say that about your father. But it was.

Stomper Girl said...

That really is a terrible incident. I don't wonder you were so upset.